Melanoma affects more than just the body

MORE than one-third of Queensland melanoma survivors are suffering clinically significant psychological distress, despite the high survival rate associated with the cancer.

New research will be presented at the Global Controversies and Advances in Skin Cancer Conference (GC-SC 2013) in Brisbane today, highlighting an urgent need to address distress in long-term melanoma survivors.

The Cancer Council Queensland study*, the largest of its kind in Australia, found a significant proportion of the 2500 melanoma survivors surveyed experienced distress five years or more after diagnosis.

While psychological distress is common at the time of diagnosis, few studies have examined whether this remains the case in the longer term (five to eight years after diagnosis).

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said the research highlighted an urgent need for programs and services to detect and treat distress in long-term melanoma survivors.

"The study showed distress was more common in female than male long-term melanoma survivors, in younger age groups, and in patients with lower levels of social support.

"Additionally in this study, high levels of distress were more frequently observed in those patients with a recurrence of their melanoma.

"It's essential that detecting and managing distress in melanoma survivors, and implementing programs to reduce distress levels, becomes a priority in clinical practice."

Queenslanders diagnosed with melanoma have a 95 per cent chance of surviving five years, with the survival rate improving steadily due to early detection.

Around 3000 Queenslanders are diagnosed with melanoma each year. In 2010, it was estimated there were more than 38,500 melanoma survivors living in Queensland. 

More information about GC-SC 2013 and is available at www.gc-sc.org.

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at www.cancerqld.org.au or Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20.



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